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Judges 4:1-7

Judges 4:1-7 is a unique passage for several reasons: First, it is the only passage from the book of Judges in all three years of the Revised Common Lectionary. Second, it tells the beginning of the story of Deborah, the only woman judge of the nation of Israel (that we know of). Finally, while God is clearly present throughout this story, God is shown as primarily working through the actions of ordinary people–namely, Deborah, Barak, and Jael.

If preaching on this passage, it would be helpful to set up the context of Judges for your congregation. Like we see in other places throughout the Old Testament, the main pattern of the book of Judges is the cyclical nature of Israel’s disobedience followed by God’s deliverance.

Following the death of Joshua (Judges 2:8), the people of God quickly found themselves directionless in the absence of their military commander and spiritual leader. Because of this, they turned to the gods of their Canaanite neighbors, defiantly rejecting the first two commandments that God issued the people of Israel: “You shall have no other gods before me,” and “You shall not make for yourself an idol” (Exodus 20:3-4). Because they chose to break their covenant with the Lord, God allowed the chosen people of Israel to fall into their enemies’ hands. Yet, over time, their groans and cries reach God’s ears, and the Lord compassionately delivers them from their oppressors by raising up judges to rescue them.

This basic pattern repeats itself again and again throughout Judges: the people assert their own will and are met with severe consequences for their actions; yet, with unfailing love, God intervenes again and again.[1] Each episode is like a “mini-exodus,” and God’s faithfulness is continually revealed, despite Israel’s disobedience.